Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ave Maris Stella

For today's feast of the Queenship of Mary, the Ave Maris Stella from Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610.
Performed by the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner:

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

"Therefore my very dear brothers, preserve peace among you, and beware of offending each other, whether by deed or word or any gesture whatever, lest someone, provoked and surprised by passion in a moment of weakness, should be constrained to invoke God against those who injured or saddened him, and impetuously cry out this grave accusation: "My mother's sons turned their anger on me." For those who sin against a brother sin against Christ who said: "In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me." 
Nor is it enough to avoid only the more serious offences, for example, public insult and abuse or the venomous slander in secret. It is not enough, I say, to guard one's tongue from these and similar kinds of nastiness; even slight offences must be avoided, if anything may be termed slight that is directed against a brother for the purpose of hurting him, since merely to be angry with one's brother makes one liable to the judgment of God. And justly so. Because what you regard as slight, and therefore commit with all the more ease, will be seen in a different light by another, just as a man looking at the outward appearance and judging according to the outward appearance, is prepared to think a splinter to be a plank, and a spark a blazing fire.
The love which believes all things is not the gift of all men. A man's heart and thoughts are more prone to suspect evil than to believe good, especially when the obligation of silence does not permit you, whose conduct is in question, to defend yourself, nor him who suspects you to lay bare the wound from which he suffers, that it might be healed. And so he endures the agony, grieving in his heart, till he succumbs from the secret and deadly wound, totally immersed in anger and bitterness, his mind a whirl of unvoiced thoughts on the injury he has received. He cannot pray, he cannot read, nor meditate on anything holy or spiritual. And while this soul for whom Christ died is cut off from the vital influence of the Spirit, and goes to its death through lack of the nourishment it needs, what, I ask, are the thoughts of your own mind in the meantime? What can you find in prayer, or in any work you do, when Christ is sorrowfully crying out against you from the heart of your brother whom you have embittered, saying: "My mother's son is fighting against me, he who enjoyed my meals with me has filled me with bitterness." 
St Bernard of Clairvaux: from Sermon 29 on the Song of Songs

Jesu dulcis memoria, words attributed to St Bernard, a setting (also controversially) attributed to Tomas Luis de Victoria, sung here by the Cambridge Singers 

And an interesting recording of Thomas Merton OCSO speaking on the subject of love in the theology of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux:

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Ave Dulcissima Maria

For Assumptiontide, another hearing for Morten Lauridsen's Ave Dulcissima Maria, sung by the lay clerks of New College, Oxford, under the direction of Edward Higginbottom:

Monday, 17 August 2015

Mid-August - the silly season is with us

So once again the British Summer fails to live up to our ever unrealistic expectations - 'underperforms' we should probably say in this triumphant age of ecclesiastical admin speak.
If there is one, this - Assumptiontide in more civilised times - is probably the official start of the 'silly season,' although we would have to say once again that, in the world in which we are forced to live much of the time, the silly season goes on for twelve months without respite:

The British Labour Party, not that long ago posing as the United Kingdom's natural party of government, but now in the throes of one of the left's periodic, post-defeat, fits of 'forget trying to win elections, let's go for ideological purity at all costs' (and it could be a very high cost) seems about to elect the pale shade of Tony Benn as its leader. Not that this observer didn't cease to care long ago about Labour in any of its manifestations, but a representative democracy worth living in needs an active, responsible - and electable - opposition party to preserve its national life from stagnation or worse. Those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 80s could be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu, tinged with despair at the contemporary tendency to despise the lessons of even the recent past...

But, as they say, mankind seems doomed to repeat the errors of the past, although the pendulum does seems to swing faster than ever these days. According to Peter Mullen [here] Pope Francis has lost it. * We should be a little wary of attaching too much importance to the obiter dicta of one who just can't help speaking off the cuff, or to the journalistic translations of what, in fact,  he does say.  Yet, to put it another way, on all kinds of levels the days of Pope Benedict seem almost impossibly long ago ...    

WATCH, increasingly the Campaign for Real Paganism, [see the last posting here]  continues its relentless harrying of the embattled orthodox enclaves within the Church of England, this time on the subject of the passing and maintenance of the resolutions in multi-church benefices - thanks, again to Sir Philip Mawer,  so far to little avail.  A response from Forward in Faith [here]

And the BBC - what can one say about the dear old BBC which has not already been said so many times before here and elsewhere? The Corporation really seems (like other institutions we could, but won't name today)  to be hell bent on alienating its most natural and loyal supporters. But I'll leave it to Peter Hitchens to conclude this short dog-day posting: 
"...On most Sunday mornings I swim up to consciousness while listening to BBC Radio 4. The thing that forces me into full wakefulness is an almost comically correct programme called, with great wit and originality,  ‘The Sunday Programme’ . This hour is supposed to be about religion. But whenever I concentrate it always seems to be mainly about sex – sexual abuse by priests and leaders of religions of almost all denominations, or the travails of overt homosexuals who insist on adhering to, or seeking to be ministers in, churches which disapprove of overt homosexuality. Yesterday was no exception to this rule, so reliable that is actually comical...." [here]
The only thing he has left out is that the 'Sunday Programme', more often than not these days, should reconsider a change of name (and positioning in the weekly schedules?) to 'Friday'...

Finally, a photo which sums up the summer so far - or maybe the entire year ....

'Je suis Cecil!'

* Based on a spoof as many have suspected: the difficulty is that the present Holy Father's profile in the secular media (not his fault, exactly) is such that many (previously incredible) reports now seem so believable to many ... the silly season, indeed.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

WATCH your backs - they really are hunting you.

The Revd Dr Peter Mullen has a point [here] : the instruments set up to ensure the 'mutual flourishing' of the warring factions of the Church of England can be a double-edged sword. Unredeemed human nature being what it is, even, one remarks ironically, in the Church,  it seems to be an iron law that majorities, even those smugly ensconced in their own liberalism, will seek to ride roughshod over those who dare to challenge their view of the world. 
Sir Philip Mawer's first report can be read here. The report contains some very good points, if at times it panders to the prevailing subjectivism of 'feelings' and perceived 'hurt.'
This time the safeguards have been effective, although I cannot be alone in thinking that the stated reasons for upholding 'orthodox' chrism masses somewhat undermine their essential purpose. 

But traditional believers within the Church of England should not feel too vindicated or that their future is secured when there remain those whose very raison d'etre is the persecution and extinction of orthodoxy in all its manifestations. The only available Anglican alternative - the results of the triumph of contemporary liberal confusion -  is all too visible among the beleaguered traditionalists across the Severn, to whose aid, their brothers and sisters in the Church of England, for reasons of  the byzantine workings of Anglican Communion politics and the inevitable hierarchical bullying consequent upon them, seem, sadly - if understandably - so reluctant to come.

Given recent news, it's something of an irony that C.S. Lewis' Aslan was a lion ....
The problem with such nebulous yet culturally and politically loaded concepts as 'diversity' and 'equality,' of course, is that they mean precisely what their advocates want them to mean; for some, they clearly involve theological big game hunting. Make no mistake: the quarry is the God of the Catholic Creeds and of the Apostolic tradition.